The High Court has today held in the case of X7 v Australian Crime Commission  HCA 29 that the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (Cth) does not authorise an examiner to require a person charged with an indictable Commonwealth offence to answer questions before their trial about the subject matter of the offence.
The plaintiff was charged in November 2010 with three offences related to the trafficking of illegal drugs. Whilst in custody, the plaintiff was served with a summons, issued pursuant to the Act, requiring him to answer questions before an examiner for the purposes of an investigation by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).
At the examination, the plaintiff was answered various questions about the subject matter of the offences; however, he refused to answer further questions after the examination was adjourned. The plaintiff was informed that he would be charged with the offence of failing to answer a question that the examiner required him to answer.
The plaintiff applied to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the ACC from
examining him regarding subject matter of the offences. The plaintiff sought a declaration
that the examination provisions of the Act were beyond the power of the Commonwealth
insofar as they permitted the compulsory examination of a person charged with an indictable
offence about the subject matter of the offence. He also sought a declaration that
an examination of this sort interfered with his right to a fair trial, and as such
contravened Ch III of the Constitution.
By majority, the High Court held that the examination provisions of the Act did not permit an ACC examiner to require a person charged with an offence to answer questions about the subject matter of the offence. In its reasoning, the Court held that if the examination provisions of the Act were interpreted to permit compulsory examination, the result would be a fundamental alteration to the processes of criminal justice, and such an alteration would require express statutory language to be effected. The Court held that examination provisions of the Act did not, expressly or impliedly, effect any such alteration, and so the Court did not need to consider the plaintiff's constitutional arguments.
FREE legislation news, delivered weekly.
Sign up now.#WeLoveLegislation Tweets
NEW information resources - great for training.